Safety is one of the difficult topics for the trucking industry. Putting the emphasis on safety and safety systems is vital in any industry in Australia today. The problem for the trucking industry is the business we are in is intrinsically dangerous.
It doesn’t matter what systems and training are involved, 68 tonnes of metal hurtling down an open highway at 100 km/m with a carbon based life form at the front is inherently dangerous. Add into the mix the ability of any other person, vehicle or animal on that highway to go wherever they like whether it is dangerous or not, and you have a potential disaster.
Another factor is these other road users are the general public, the voters, on whom the politicians depend. Hurt one hair on their head and you are the big baddie. Basically, you can’t win.
On the other side of the equation is the business running the trucks. Work is done for historically low rates and the margins in the work leave little to spare for extras. In the past, the customers did not care about the safety of your truck, just price. Chain of responsibility laws may have woken a few of the big players up, but not all.
As a result of all this, the truck operator has little control over improving safety. The only solution is to work as hard as possible to improve safety where you do have control. Changing driver culture and training safety into a workforce does yield results but will only go so far and last for so long.
Others revert to a purely technological solution. Put as many safety features on the truck to improve safety. Electronic stability control is a wonderful thing and has actually proven itself out on our highways. Other technologies like adaptive cruise and lane keeping warning do work and add to the safety improvement.
There are even fatigue monitoring devices to be worn on the eyes to detect higher than normal blink rates. These are effective but only to a limited extent.
A trial by Toll NQX seems to combine the new safety technology with driver training and culture change. A sample number of their trucks were fitted with cameras looking out at the road and in at the driver. This is effective in a number of ways.
Firstly, if there is an incident, it is recorded, both what happened and what the driver was doing. This shows who was at fault and whether driver contributed. Toll NQX have found driver distraction comes up as an issue regularly.
Secondly, despite initial push back from drivers, experience with the cameras soon allayed fears. If there was an incident the driver wanted to record they simply pushed a button and eight seconds before and after was saved. Privacy didn’t become an issue as the usefulness of the technology became plain.
The culture change did take place. Drivers were aware of the recording and would act responsibly. Supervisors reduced the number of calls they made to drivers on the road, reducing distraction. Placing in cab equipment in a better position reduced unnecessary eyes-off-the-road time.
The technology in these cameras is becoming cheaper every day. The trial by Toll NQX did deliver results by using the camera as a recording device and training tool, not a stick to beat drivers with. This isn’t just a ‘commitment to safety’, this is being smart and getting a result.